First Drive: 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid
The Toyota Camry Hybrid—which combines comfort, reliability and good fuel economy—is the second best selling hybrid in 2008. We had an opportunity to drive the 2009 model to get first-hand experience with the drivability and fuel consumption of this carryover sedan.
The Camry Hybrid is powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 147 horsepower and 138 pound-feet of torque. It’s also equipped with a 40-horsepower electric motor, bringing the total output to 187 horsepower, which is more than enough for virtually all traffic and driving conditions. The Camry Hybrid never feels short on power, and grants near-perfect throttle response. This is ideal for highway on-ramps, and launches from zero when you really need to get going. At the same time, the Camry is smooth as silk in low speed conditions. It’s a controlled and balanced four-door vehicle, slotting comfortably between family sedan and sports sedan.
Government fuel economy for the new Camry is 33 in the city and 34 on the highway. To test its real world efficiency, we took the Camry Hybrid on a 122-mile round-trip journey from Aberdeen, Maryland to York, Pennsylvania and back. The mixed driving route was comprised of small town roads, two-lane byways and country roads, and approximately 40 miles on Interstate 83. We achieved combined gas mileage of 35.2 miles per gallon, slightly exceeding government estimates.
The Camry offers a well-placed center console screen found within the gauge cluster, and directly behind the steering wheel, allowing the driver to easily keep track of how the hybrid powertrain is operating. (It’s not like the Prius’s touch-screen monitor in the middle of the dashboard, which some drivers believe is distracting and misplaced.)
The Camry’s monitor uses animation to represent the gas engine, the electric power, and the regenerative braking, as well as an arrow indicating the flow of energy—two arrows when the gas engine and electric motor are working in conjunction. To the left of this display is an analog-style consumption meter displaying the instantaneous miles per gallon reading. (These instantaneous readings are rarely useful in any hybrid because the quickly dart from low numbers to high numbers and back again.)
In terms of handling, the Camry is more than competent. It corners well and offers plenty of driver feedback—as we experienced on the switchback roads of northern Maryland and southern Pennsylvania. But the Camry is best known for its ride quality. It offers a smooth and compliant feel that makes it ideal for long trips and daily commuting. Furthermore, the transition from gas engine to electric motor and back again, is one of the most seamless we’ve seen in any hybrid to date.
All in all, the 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid hasn’t changed much from last year’s model. And that’s a good thing.